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'Long overdue,' 'UniTeam no more': Filipino politicians react to VP Sara Duterte's resignation as DepEd secretary

By NICK GARCIA Published Jun 19, 2024 6:08 pm

Filipino politicians have mixed reactions over the sudden resignation of Vice President Sara Duterte as secretary of the Department of Education, vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and a member of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s Cabinet.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, in a statement, said Duterte's resignation was long overdue.

"Sana ay mas maaga niya ito ginawa para makapaglagay ng isang kalihim ng DepEd na galing talaga sa sektor ng edukasyon at alam ang kanyang ginagawa," Castro said, adding that two years to fix the education crisis was wasted.

With Duterte's resignation NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson, Castro is hoping for the "red-tagging agency" to be abolished, as it's "nothing but an apparatus of the state to violate human rights and spread fake news."

"The resignation of VP Duterte from the Marcos Jr. Cabinet also marks the open war between the former allies and the upcoming escalation of hostilities between the two camps," Castro added.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, said Duterte's resignation should "hopefully lead to the solution to the alarming crisis in Philippine education."

"No less than VP Duterte herself said that her resignation is 'dala ng tunay na malasakit para sa ating mga guro at kabataang Pilipino,' which means that her incumbency was a liability to teachers and students," Lagman said.

He is looking forward to a replacement coming from the ranks of "experienced and dedicated educators who can efficiently steer and professionally manage the educational system of the country."

Duterte's departure from the Cabinet also "terminates absolutely" the UniTeam, he added.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, for her part, said Duterte's resignation is a "political move" in preparation for the 2025 midterm elections "to set the stage for a potential power struggle between the Duterte and Marcos factions."

"From the very start, the VP had no real intention of addressing the crisis in our education system," Brosas said. "Her controversial appointment reeked of traditional political maneuverings rather than a sincere commitment to improve our schools and protect our teachers and students."

Brosas also urged the public to remain vigilant because while Marcos and Duterte's "perceived unity" has "deepening cracks," she said they "remain united in pushing anti-people policies and governance that favor only their dynastic interests at the expense of the Filipino people."

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Facebook said UniTeam has "formally been dissolved," claiming that Duterte "has become the leader of the opposition."

"The line has been drawn!" said Roque, who served the VP's father, former president Rodrigo Duterte. "The Philippines finally has a real leader. Onwards to Transparency, Accountability, Peace and Security! Let's redeem the Philippines!"

Former VP spokesperson Barry Gutierrez, who served Duterte's predecessor Leni Robredo, also saw the news as a sign of the end of the UniTeam.

"Goodbye, Uniteam," he wrote on X.

"Curious lang ako baking NGAYON nag-resign. Kung delicadeza, dapat nung una pa lang nagsimulang bumanat ang tatay at ka-kampo niya sa ka-'UniTeam' nila. Kung dahil di kaya ang trabaho, dapat last year pa, nung lumabas ang iba't ibang problema sa edukasyon," he added.

Gutierrez further speculated if Duterte had other plans.

The Presidential Communications Office first announced Duterte's resignation, noting that she will continue to serve as vice president.

She didn't give a reason for her resignation.

Shortly after the announcement, she held a press conference to look back on her track as DepEd secretary for the past two years.

Marcoses vs. Dutertes

The Marcoses and Dutertes joined forces under the UniTeam banner during the 2022 elections.

But their alliance has had cracks afterward, with Marcos giving Duterte the problem-plagued DepEd portfolio instead of her preferred Department of National Defense.

Since then, it has gathered pace after House Speaker Martin Romualdez—Marcos' cousin who's also widely expected to seek the presidency in 2028—removed deputy speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a former president and ally of the Dutertes.

Romualdez also spearheaded efforts to strip the Office of the Vice President and DepEd of millions of confidential funds.

In early January, Marcos told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that they may visit the country in light of its investigation into the killings during the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs. He, however, said he will not “lift a finger” to help in its investigation, which he described as “a threat to our sovereignty.”

The House of Representatives, whose majority supports Marcos, has also pushed for the pro-Duterte network SMNI to be stripped of its license after one of its hosts accused Romualdez of spending P1.8 billion for his travels for 2023.

During a “prayer” rally against charter change in Davao City on Jan. 28—which coincided with Marcos’ “Bagong Pilipinas” rally in Manila—Sara's brother, mayor Baste Duterte, said Marcos is "lazy" and "lacks compassion."

Additionally, Baste accused Marcos of making politics his “first priority instead of opening up new opportunities especially for the lower classes to improve the lives of Filipinos.” He also asked Marcos to resign.

The elder Duterte, meanwhile, accused Marcos of being a drug addict, claiming without proof that he's on the watchlist of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. The agency has cleared the president's name, saying he was never on its watchlist.

Marcos, meanwhile, responded to Duterte, claiming his predecessor was on fentanyl.

Last April, Marcos's wife, First Lazy Liza Araneta Marcos, aired her sentiments against the vice president, who's already a "bad shot" for her.

Liza said she got hurt when Duterte allegedly laughed at Marcos being called “bangag” or high on drugs during the Davao City rally in January. (It's unclear whether Duterte laughed as she was not seen at the event's official livestream on Facebook during that time.)

Since what happened, she admitted ignoring Duterte whenever they’re in the same event.

During a speech in Angeles City on June 17, Baste once again criticized Marcos, saying he couldn't comprehend what the administration has been doing.

Baste claimed that Marcos wasn't listening to the Filipino people despite the Philippines being a democratic country.

"How can you govern a state or a nation if you do not listen to the majority?" he told the president.